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Afghanistan by the Numbers: Measuring a War Gone to Hell

Maintenance cost for the force of 450,000 Afghan soldiers and police U.S. generals dream of creating: approximately 500% of the Afghan budget.

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Percentage of the Pentagon's force in Afghanistan made up of contractors in March 2009: 57%.

Ranking for the percentage of contractors used by the Pentagon in Afghanistan: highest in any conflict in U.S. history.

Diplomats and the Civilian Surge

Cost of new "crash" program to expand the U.S. "diplomatic presence" in Afghanistan and Pakistan: $1 billion. ($736 million of which is slated for the construction of a massive new embassy/regional headquarters in Islamabad, Pakistan.)

Number of additional U.S. government personnel reportedly slated to be sent to Pakistan to augment the 750 civilians already there: almost 1,000.

Expected number of U.S. government civilians to be posted at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan by the end of 2009: 976. (There were 562 at the end of 2008 and there are now reportedly more than 1,000 diplomats, staff, and Afghan nationals already working there.)

Estimated total number of civilians to be assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul as part of a proposed ongoing "civilian surge" by 2011: 1,350 (800 to be posted in Kabul, 550 outside the capital).

Cost of the State Department's five-year contract with Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) to provide security for U.S. diplomats in Afghanistan: $210 million.

Cost of the State Department's contract with ArmorGroup North America, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Wackenhutt Services Inc., to guard the U.S. Embassy in Kabul: $189 million.

Number of private guards provided by ArmorGroup North America: 450, based at Camp Sullivan, several miles from the embassy compound where they reportedly engaged in Lord of the Flies-style behavior.

The Metrics of Success

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on success in Afghanistan: It will take "a few years" to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Admiral "Mike" Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Meet the Press : "I believe we've got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months." (He would not directly answer the "how long" question.)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on the Afghan War: "None of the civilian officials or military officers interviewed in Afghanistan and elsewhere expected substantial progress in the short term. They talked in terms of years two, five and 10... Military officials believe the Afghanistan mission can only succeed if troops are there far longer -- anywhere from five years to 12 years."

Military experts cited by Walter Pincus of the Washington Post warn: "[T]he United States is taking on security and political commitments that will last at least a decade and a cost that will probably eclipse that of the Iraq war."

Anthony H. Cordesman, a member of a "team" put together by U.S. commanding general in Afghanistan Stanley A. McChrystal to assess war strategy, and a national security expert for the Center for Strategic and International Studies: "told reporters recently that even with military gains in the next 12 to 18 months, it would take years to reduce sharply the threat from the Taliban and other insurgent forces."

Robert Dreyfuss of the Nation summarizing the opinions of a panel of experts on the Afghan War, including Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran and adviser to four presidents, who chaired President Obama's Afghan task force, two McChrystal task force members, Kim Kagan and Cordesman, and the Brooking Institution's Michael O'Hanlon: "(1) A significant escalation of the war will be necessary to avoid utter defeat. (2) Even if tens of thousands of troops are added to the US occupation, it won't be possible to determine if the US/NATO effort is succeeding until eighteen months later. (3) Even if the United States turns the tide in Afghanistan, no significant drawdown of US forces will take place until five years have passed." (Riedel commented: "Anyone who thinks that in 12 to 18 months we're going to be anywhere close to victory is living in a fantasy.")

 
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